Saturday, September 15, 2007

Danger in Charity & Short Term Missions

I'm learning to identify ways in which Christian culture has inoculated us from our true calling as stewards of the light and life-giving Christ in this dark and dying world. Things that look good and even do some good, but also often quench and delude our Spirit-fueled compulsion to share what we’ve received with others in the ongoing relational flow of God’s miraculous life.

For example... short term missions, charitable donations, international missionary support, even giving to local ministries like our churches... No doubt, there’s some great fruit that comes from each of these; but they also have the potential to satisfy our conviction in a way that prevents us from connecting with the needy relationally, causing us to miss the very heart of God’s redemptive aim… relational reconciliation.

If we give to organizations and institutions, trusting that they will interact with the needy, then we have relegated our light-sharing, life-giving presence in this world to one of impersonal resource redistribution. And while that fits nicely with a socialistic government model, it’s still very far from God’s kingdom reality… which is founded on love… a personal, skin-on-skin, relational exercise.

Does this change where or how we give our money? Does it change where we serve or volunteer? Does it change our awareness of our motives in such things? Are we simply trying to feel good about ourselves and our faith or are we really striving toward relational reconciliation with God and people?




Bill said...

If we all began thinking this way, the entire Christian system as we know it would be ruined...

...and God's Kingdom would come in ways we've not yet seen.

John Lynch said...

Amen, Bill.

"Abba, may Your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

Pastor Michael said...

John I just stumbled across your blog doing some research for a theology course Im taking at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. The prof in the class has repeatedly said that the church in America has become a "vendor of religious goods and services". As I read your article I thought about how Short term missions in particular are indeed a part of this problem. Organizations are "competing" to provide an experience that will maximize the participants sense of accomplishment, adventure, satisfaction in "doing his/her part" at the lowest cost to their convenience, comfort and pocketbooks. Like you said things like short term missions aren't all bad, but maybe we need to rethink what we're doing.

John Lynch said...

I think that's a great exhortation, Michael. That we rethink what we're doing. So many forms of what we know as ministry is the result of human innovations wrought in the passion-fires of good intentions. Despite those well-meaning intentions, however, we often unwittingly create dynamics that result in unexpected consequences.

How then do we avoid this dynamic of ignorance? And how might the answer to that question involve the reorientation of the relationship between ministry innovation and prayerful waiting on God's innovative leadership?